Three of the biggest arguments against Brexit appear to be flawed
In the run-up to the EU Referendum vote on June 23rd, JOE will be running a number of pieces examining both sides of the debate. Here, Robyn Vinter scrutinises the IN campaign’s headline figures.
In recent weeks there has been a lot of criticism of some of Vote Leave’s figures ahead of the EU Referendum on Thursday. The campaign, supported by Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson has been accused of lying for saying the UK pays £350m per week to the EU. Taking into account what we get back, it’s more like £250m a week, according to independent fact-checking charity Full Fact.
But relatively little notice has been paid to the IN camp’s numbers. In the interest of balance, we delved into some of the claims made by Britain Stronger In Europe.
EU membership is worth £3,000 a year per household
This figure is one of the most widely-used among those who are campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU, coming from a report by business group the CBI in 2013. The Britain Stronger In Europe campaign uses the claim on its website, adding: “This £3,000 comes back to you and your family through lower prices for everyday goods in UK shops, extra jobs created, increased investment in the UK and trade with EU countries.”
However, there is very little evidence at all supporting this claim, particularly as it is not based on original research - rather the CBI appears to have cherry-picked favourable stats from research already available.
Back in 2013, C4 Fact Check investigated and concluded the figure is “way more optimistic than most other estimates, and we can’t don’t [sic] really know how the CBI researchers have arrived at this figure. It doesn’t appear to be a fair reflection of the evidence they themselves have looked at – and the choice of evidence seems partial and one-sided to begin with.”
Verdict: While there are no doubt some economic benefits to staying in Europe, the £3,000 figure appears to be wildly inaccurate.
Three million British jobs depend on EU membership
Former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, who previously served as an MEP, is one of the people to have said this in the past, and a variation of the claim appears on the IN campaign’s website. The IN campaign insist it has never claimed three million jobs would be lost if Britain left the EU - though it does say three million jobs are linked with trade with the EU.
The figure comes from a report by National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) from 15 years ago, which adds up the number of people who work in businesses which export to countries in the EU.
While there’s nothing wrong with the actual number - other than it being out of date - the problem is it is not correct to link these jobs with EU membership. This is because leaving the EU would not necessarily make a difference to the number of people working in these jobs, as the UK would still be allowed to trade with the EU.
In fact, former NIESR boss Dr Martin Weale said the way it had been used by some pro-EU campaigners was a “wilful distortion of the facts”.
Verdict: The Leave campaign can’t say for certain no jobs would be lost if Britain left the EU, however, equally it’s certainly not accurate to insinuate three million jobs are at risk.
For every £1 we put in, we get £10 back
If you’ve even slightly followed the debate, you’ll have heard this one. It’s often blindly repeated as a fact, sometimes without any reference to the original source. It’s used by the IN campaign in posters and leaflets and has been the subject of a viral video in which a man asks members of the public for £1 and then gives them £10. But is it true?
Brickwall, which made the video, offers this baffling explanation: “According to HM Treasury, our net contributions to the EU budget in 2015 have been £9.8 billion. According to the CBI, "academic evidence points to an overall net benefit of EU membership to the UK around 4-5% of GDP or £73 bn-91bn (£2,700-£3,300 per household.)" This equates to a ratio of £9.1:£1.”
This CBI report appears to be the same one that the IN campaign used to claim EU membership is worth £3,000 per household, which was debunked by C4 Fact Check.
Earlier this year, the CBI reviewed its initial analysis in the 2013 report. It maintained that this was still roughly the case, despite the criticism.
However, in March, a Treasury Select Committee invited campaigners and independent experts to explain the figures. Chair of the committee, Tory MP Andrew Tyrie said it was “intellectually dishonest to persist with these claims”, according to the economists who had given evidence.
Verdict: It’s a catchy idea but it appears to be based on the same dodgy figures. There might very well be a net financial gain from being in the EU but the ratio of £10 back for every £1 we put in can’t be substantiated.